What is a smooth cottage dining experience for families with children made of?

Delicious food is a central part of the cottage experience. Not many want to spend a lot of time preparing food during their vacation, though. Depending on the available equipment, cooking at the cottage may require more adjustment or be quite like cooking at home. Personally, I love the rudimentary cottage life that allows one to focus on the basics. Washing the dishes and peeling potatoes can be relaxing and fun activities to do together as a family at the cottage. Involving children in cooking and dishwashing also frees up time for adults in the family to lie down in a hammock. Read more for tips for smooth and food wasteless cottage dining!

Sort out storage options and plan out methods of preparing food in advance

If you are not already familiar with the cottage you’re staying at, find out about the cooking conditions upfront. What kind of cold storage equipment does the cottage have? Are they already on when you arrive at the cottage? How will the dishes be taken care of? Is the cottage close to a convenience store? Should food be prepared outdoors on the grill or in the cottage kitchen? If the stoves in the cottage kitchen are gas-powered, it may be wise to avoid foods that have a long cooking time such as soups.

Once you are more familiar with the equipment available to you at the cottage, you can plan out the most sensible food options for the cottage vacation. By planning the meals in advance you can also avoid wasting food as you don’t end up buying too much and know which food items requires cold storaging. You can avoid breaking the cold chain by purchasing products that require cold storaging and perishable products from a local store and transporting them in cooler bags to the destination.

Plan out guaranteed favorite meals and take into consideration the demand

Think in advance what your family and possible guests are guaranteed to eat. It is also a good idea to design your menu using first the most perishable ingredients such as fish. Try to come up with meals that can be conjured up from canned or dry products. For example, lentils and beans as well as root vegetables last a long time. If you want to minimize cooking in cottage conditions, it may be a good idea to prepare the food for the first few days at home, freeze it, and transport it to the cottage in a cooler bag with freezer blocks. Thus, the food problems of the first days have been solved!

Estimate the demand of food and drinks carefully. Plan out the meals so that any leftovers can be served as side dishes for the next meal. This way you avoid wasting food and driving food back and forth unnecessarily. It’s good to note that especially in hot weather, you may not need two hearty meals. The second meal of the day may as well be a lighter salad with side dishes.

For the first and last days, think of easy and quick meals that don’t require a lot of cooking or make a lot of dirty dishes. This will make your cottage life easier upon arrival and when it’s time to head back home.

Jenni‘s favorite cottage dishes x4:

Hot dogs – A children’s favorite food which is also a super-fast option with minimal dirty dishes. You can avoid dirty dishes altogether if you use kitchen paper, baking paper or even coffee filter bags instead of plates. Heat the sausages and buns on the grill or in the cottage oven. Let the children fill their own hot dogs. Adding side dishes or extra fillings can make the meal even more enjoyable for adults. Hot dogs are the perfect meal for the first or the last day of the cottage vacation!

Check out Kotiliesi’s fun hot dog filling ideas (only in Finnish): https://kotiliesi.fi/ruoka/mita-taytteeksi-hodariin-3-ohjetta/

A classic: cast iron crêpes with jam!  

Just making the cast iron crêpês is an event in itself! If it strikes your fancy, you can also make salty fillings for the crêpês. If the cottage is not far from your home, you can prepare the dough already at home, store it in plastic bottles and transport the ready-made dough to the cottage with you. The bottles also make it easy to dispense the dough while frying the crêpês. You can also cut some corners and buy a ready-made crêpê flour mixture, from which you can make the dough at the cottage.

The pancakes become extra delicious when you add barley flour to the dough. Adding soda water gives the pancakes the lovely lace edges.

Pancakes go well with ice cream. However, if the cottage does not have a freezer, you can serve the pancakes with jam and whipped cream. Yummy!

You can find a traditional recipe for cast iron crêpes on the K-ruoka.fi (only in Finnish): https://www.k-ruoka.fi/reseptit/muurinpohjaletut

By the way, did you know that the traditional Finnish cast iron crêpês are originally a specialty of Upper Savonia? They were eaten in the summer, especially during midsummer. The name comes from the fact that the large crêpês were fried on the bottom of a wash copper. It was sweaty work. Nowadays, cast iron crêpês are eaten in other parts of Finland, too, and the preparation is less sweaty with large and rimless cast iron pans that’re used over an open fire made. (Kielikello 2003, only in Finnish)

Fish, early potatoes and salad: A must have!

Regardless of the enthusiastic fishermen, both small and big in our family, firhermen’s luck is not always guaranteed. Because of it we are used to buying canned lake fish or smoked fish for the cabin just in case. Meals are prepared of them variedly, depending on the situation and the catches. To accompany the fish, you can prepare a salad from early cabbage, spring onion stems, tomatoes, and cucumber. You might want to make a big enough salad that lasts for multiple meals, as this simple salad works great with grilled dishes, too.

Pea soup and crispbread

Ready-made pea soup and crispbread is an easy cottage food and only requires a pot and water to prepare. Spice up the ready-made pea soup with raw onion, mustard, Origanum, and cream.  You can also add any kind of vegetables and meat to the pea soup. Use up your leftover ingredients to prepare the soup and reduce your food waste!

It is not worth cooking pea soup from dry peas at the cottage if the cottage has a gas stove.   With ready-made pea soup the cooking time is shorter and therefore preferred.  By boiling the ready-made soup a little longer and by adding some extra ingredients it won’t differ much from home-made soup!

Happy camping and delicious moments!

Source: Länsimäki, Maija 2003: Letut, blinit ja krepit – hyvällä on monta nimeä. Kielikellon blogi 2/2003. https://www.kielikello.fi/-/letut-blinit-ja-krepit-hyvalla-on-monta-nimea Referred to on the 4th of July, 2022.

The Hävikkifoorumi project (2020–2023) is implemented together with a wonderful group of partners: Natural Resources Institute Finland, Motiva, The Martha Organization, The Rural Women’s Advisory Organisation, The Finnish Grocery Trade Association, and Choice Architecture Partners Oy. Kuluttaja magazine is also involved in the project. They organize the national Hävikkiviikko as a part of the project. Long-term cooperation and development is made possible by the three-year funding received from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Additional information https://www.kuluttajaliitto.fi/en/havikkifoorumi/

The blog entries are not official announcements, statements, declarations or opinions of The Consumers’ Union of Finland. The entries are discussion openings from the viewpoints brought up by the author. The Consumers’ Union of Finland also publishes texts written by guest authors on their blog.

Jenni Vainioranta